Content Advisory: Please note the following content can be directly or indirectly related to topics about mental health, depression, suicide, and or self-harm.
It’s five months into quarantine and I can’t stop crying. Some might call it depression. I call it waking up to oppression. Waking up to the ways I’ve internalized oppression, waking up to other people’s ignorance of oppression. Only after many difficult conversations about race did I realize how much of my life I’d been silenced, not connecting the dots between being ignored and being a WOC.
I actually didn’t identify as a WOC until recently. See, Asian Americans don’t really talk about race. That’s been part of our own experience with colonization. We’ve assimilated to American culture and tried to be as white as possible, to blend in the background, work hard, ask for nothing, raying, hoping, wishing that no one will notice we are different.
In many ways, that survival strategy worked. As a 3rd generation biracial Chinese-American, I’ve all but forgot my Chinese roots. Except my experience through the world is not the same as someone who is white. But it wasn’t until the BLM movement and uprisings, the much-needed revolution, and having more intentional conversations about race and oppression that I saw with fresh eyes the subtle—and not-so-subtle—ways I’ve been treated as “less than,” been taken advantage of, been quieted and patronized and censored throughout my life.
It was as if all of a sudden, the suffering of my lineage that had been lingering dormant in my body, in my cellular memory, awakened. As if generations of cultural amnesia was wearing off, thawing, exposing things I didn’t want to see, memories I didn’t want to remember.
I cycled through many layers of sadness, disillusionment, anger, grief, helplessness, and disgust. Emotions that are difficult for me to feel, even more so to express. As I began to voice my pain, I was met with criticism, belittling, and even more gaslighting. Nothing is stranger—infuriating, really—than being gaslit while trying to express the ways in which you’ve been gaslit. Talk about disorienting.
It made me take stock in the fact that life is extra messy right now. Systems are dismantling. Bodies are remembering. Relationships are severing. People are fed up. It is a time of truth-telling. And the truth isn’t always pretty. Waking up is never as light and rainbow-y as I think it will be.
My friend texted me the other day: “You know shit is real when you start feeling like a caterpillar obliterated and reforming into a new being.”
I hate being the caterpillar. Being the caterpillar sucks. The only silver lining is I’ve been the caterpillar so many times before that I know I won’t stay the caterpillar forever. I know, when I least expect it, I’ll get to be the butterfly once again.
Talk. Share. Help.
Find more about Elizabeth here: https://elizabethsu.com